RPG Evolution - The AI GM: Your Somewhat Unreliable Familiar

Artificial Intelligence creates a lot of opportunities for game designers and game masters, but it has some serious flaws too.


Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

The Basics​

One of the most popular text AIs is ChatGPT, but there are many others, particularly in the art space, like Dream.

What is commonly termed "artificial intelligence" isn't quite what is portrayed in science fiction as a thinking robot. Rather, today's AI is more a hive mind, the collective output of humanity from decades of using the Internet. AI is trained to cull this data into something human readable, be it graphics or text, in a way that feels natural. This makes AI very appealing to use and problematic to source.

Because AI is trained on data sets, the potential responses are not known even to the creators. Essentially, while companies can create AI, few can explain how they come to their conclusions because the systems aren't made to share how they work. That's of course part of their competitive advantage, as the AI race has kicked off to produce something everyone on the Internet comes to rely on.

When it comes to creating something creatively, AI can be a wonderful thought starter. It can create art uniquely to match your requirements that might not be available elsewhere; it can write an article about any esoteric topic; it can essentially try its best to do exactly what you ask it to do. But the execution is rarely perfect.

The Problems​

AI has to be trained. That is, it considers all outcomes equally valid until someone tells it otherwise. AI exposed to the Internet have quickly reverted to the Internet's worst instincts, as AI developers have yet to implement guardrails on how the tools should work. Or to put it another way, like all of Internet searches, if you put garbage in, it spits garbage out.

The problem with AI then is that it conceals how it comes to conclusions about content that wasn't reviewed by a human, may not be appropriate to the topic or audience, or otherwise is irrelevant. AI developers who use large swaths of the Internet for their data sets are taking a gamble that there will be more positive than negative outcomes.

Using AI in Games​

The possibilities of using AI to assist in tabletop gaming and publishing is enormous, but they come with some important caveats.

For one, AI is by definition using everyone else's work. This means the quality it produces can be average; in extreme cases, it can potentially violate intellectual property and copyright by copying someone else's work without modifying it enough to make it unique. This is one of the many reasons major publishers are prohibiting AI art and why DriveThruRPG has separate tags to identify when AI art has been used in a product.

Using AI also means giving up control. While some AI can be trained, the free ones are wild beasts that can only be guided in a general direction. Worse, ChatGPT creates content with 100% confidence, which can fool users into thinking their content is accurate or unique when they have no clarity on its source. I've used ChatGPT to create stat blocks and calculate challenge ratings, and it's been flat out wrong on more than one occasion.

Finally, AI takes a lot longer than the outputs you see. My personal experience is that working with free AI tools takes between 10 to 20 attempts (with art), and 3 to 5 attempts (with text) to get something useable. With art, this often means weird fingers or the wrong number of arms and legs. Even when AI gets gets close to what we want, it usually needs to be heavily edited to get it right.

Ready or Not, Here AI Comes​

Whether or not we're ready for it, the AI revolution is here. If we can use it responsibly, there is tremendous upside, but that requires training humans to use the tools responsibly too. In the upcoming series of articles, we'll discuss how game masters and publishers can use AI in creating art, text, and even game design.
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


We also had the Motion Control and VR revolutions, self-driving cars, crypto-currency, and NFTs.

I'll be waiting another 5 to 10 years to see how revolutionary any of this will actually have been.

We also had the Motion Control and VR revolutions, self-driving cars, crypto-currency, and NFTs.

I'll be waiting another 5 to 10 years to see how revolutionary any of this will actually have been.
Actually, VR never had a chance to get a real market share, or become mainstream: too many people are utterly unable to use it. VR sickness is a thing, and it does affect a significant percent of the population.

Crypto and nfts are both large scale scams making use of a legitimate technology: blockchains.

AI is a tool in its infancy, and is only as good as its refinement. Regardless of if you love it, fear it, or hate it, it’s never going to be as dumb as it is right now. It is going to become more useable, universal, and unlimited as time progresses.

This is the same genie that was released when each of the previous ages opened: industrial, computer, information, and now AI. This will be a new tool that people will have to learn, or will have to catch up on later.
Im not talking about self aware AI, or any other kind of silliness, just another new tool, like photoshop, or cell phones.

Nathaniel Lee

VR sickness is a thing, and it does affect a significant percent of the population.
I can attest to this. I got a Meta Quest 2 right after Thanksgiving, but I never really had a chance to play anything on it until I finally tried out Resident Evil 4 a few nights ago. Things were okay at first, but the action started picking up and I found myself rotating around, turning my head, or anything else inducing motion within that virtual world, I quickly felt myself starting to get nauseous. And I don't suffer from motion sickness. It was enough that I've seriously given second thought to whether I could ever play that game again for anymore than a few minutes at a time. I'm actually getting nauseous just thinking about how I felt that evening.

We also had the Motion Control and VR revolutions, self-driving cars, crypto-currency, and NFTs.

I'll be waiting another 5 to 10 years to see how revolutionary any of this will actually have been.
The situation with AI is fundamentally different than those other technologies you mention, in large part because AI is cheaper and more immediately useful than any of those other features. Not everybody has a self-driving car nor bought any crypto, but sooo many of the kids have already tried ChatGPT to write things for them.

This wave is coming fast. It won’t be a decade before it crashes over us, you’ll hear about it being integrated everywhere within the next year or two. It’s already upon us.


AI, like Chat-GPT, feels like it is currently in its 1994 Internet phase. In my experience over the last three weeks, it has been gobsmackingly beneficial for my gming. Does it make perfect adventures for you at the press of a button? No, not yet. But kiss writer's block goodbye. It knows perfectly well how to provide suggestions, alternatives or complete writeups for plots, site layouts, puzzles, NPC motivations, tactics, and dialogues. "How would this NPC react if this thing happened?" -> "Here are five options and the reasoning behind them" or "What was the general breakdown of occupations in a typical English medieval town in the 12th century?" for those with a simulationist heart. It can even code up a subclass based on a concept. And all of this in roughly 3 seconds a pop (depending on the time of day). Right now, think of it as a fantastically capable assistant, a muse that will one day grow to be your superior.

Well, the road has a few dozen dangers. Which are you focused on, and in what way? Context matters, and we don’t know yours.
Yielding creative expression out of human hands is the end of human culture. That is the terminal point of this technology. When we no longer write our own stories or compose our own songs or paint our own pictures, we won't have a culture any longer.
Quite simply, I won't support or purchase any TTRPG product that makes use of purely AI derived work as part of the project, be it written or visual media.
We all have to have a line. This is mine.

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